Wounded Azkals set sights on Suzuki Cup after finals heartbreak in Maldives
By Karlo Sacamos
THE journey continues for the Philippine men’s football team.
That’s what Azkals manager Dan Palami assured after the national team fell short of its dream of reaching the prestigious Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup following a stinging 0-1 loss to Palestine in the finale of the AFC Challenge Cup over the weekend in Maldives.
“We look forward to new challenges, putting Philippine football in the bigger arena of Asia and the players are ready to step up,” Palami assured on Tuesday in a homecoming gathering hosted by ABS-CBN Sports.
Instead of sulking, the Azkals look ahead to get back on the horse, starting in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup, Southeast Asia’s top tournament, but is lower tiered than the Challenge Cup.
This year’s edition of the competition that started it all for the Azkals is slated in November when the Filipino booters vie for top honors after likewise coming up short in the past two editions.
“We got the silver medal (in the Challenge Cup), but don’t worry. We’ll try to get the gold medal in the Suzuki Cup,” left-back Daisuke Sato said.
He may be one of the youngest players in the team at 19, but he’s not afraid to make bold predictions and aim high.
“I think Daisuke has already set the standard for our next tournament,” Palami said.
The Azkals find out which group they will be in after the Suzuki Cup draw set on August 5 in Hanoi, Vietnam, according to Philippine Football Federation general-secretary Edwin Gastanes.
With five months to prepare for the AFF tournament, the Filipino booters already have upcoming friendlies in store, with Gastanes confirming a pending invitations from Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
“The key now is to strengthen the team further,” Palami said.